The strongest solar flare in five years erupted on the face of the sun Monday, disrupting communications on Earth. It was expected to set off a brilliant show of northern lights early Wednesday.
The flare affected Coast Guard navigation systems and shortwave radio signals and was expected to affect surface and satellite communications through Wednesday, said Joe Kunches of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Environment Services Center.
The flare, detected at 6:05 a.m. PST, was so strong that it overwhelmed instrumentation on an NOAA satellite that measures the strength of flares, Kunches said, making it the strongest solar flare since April, 1984.
Protons from the flare were expected to reach the Earth’s atmosphere late Monday and disrupt computers on many orbiting satellites, he said.
Kunches said the display of northern lights, also called the aurora borealis, should be evident early Wednesday in the northern third of the United States.
Scientists expect more flares during the next 12 days.